Mittwoch, 18. Dezember 2013

Short takes

"Una noche" is somewhat simplistically written and the acting isn't top-notch but boy does this thing look pretty. The emerald of the Caribbean Sea, the sapphire of the Cuban sky and the dusty sparkle of the wide, dilapidated, breathtaking expanse that is Havana are doused here in a kind of sunshine so generous, brilliant, furiously sexy that's just unseen anywhere else in the world. Watching it, you can feel the colors and vibrancy blaze off the screen and it's electrifying. Even though the movie loses quite a bit of steam in the second half, feature film debut writer/director Lucy Mulloy shows great instincts by the portrayal of adolescent angst and all the uncontainable urges of youth. Music-wise, the cello-centric score can be a downer sometimes but whenever anybody opens their mouth to sing, it's like getting your soul massaged by those sticky Spanish syllables. In short, a feat for the eyes and ears, and for all its faults, this movie is so alive like few others in this past year.

"Disconnect" is an embarrassingly transparent "Crash"-wannabe so you know it's not aiming too high to begin with. But then writer Andrew Stern and director Henry Alex Rubin go on to tell their unbearably solemn, moralistic tale with such stupendously broad and coarse strokes, indicting every one of their witless, humorless characters and probably even the audience members for some sketchy offense, that the resulting film makes Paul Haggis' blunt, sappy Oscar-winner look like a masterpiece of tact. Atrociously written without an inkling of the challenges in finding a connection in an age of ceaseless communication, poorly acted and loudly directed, this is not just an all-out cringe-fest, but an assault on the senses and a crime against human intellect- hands down the worst movie of the year (and I say that as someone who has sat through "Grown Ups 2", "血滴子 (The Guillotines)" and "Kokowääh 2").

"O Som ao Redor (Neighboring Sounds)" is an obscurely intriguing, technically refined but ultimately unsatisfying film. Revolving around several households in an affluent Brazilian residential area, it deals with such subjects as the ruthless economic gaps left behind and the collective memories wiped out for the sake of redevelopment, albeit in a stealth, almost cryptic way. Director Kleber Mendonça Filho has a knack for delivering striking images with distinct framing and bold color choices. The aural design of the film is even more accomplished, integrating the lush sea breeze, the vaguely disturbing street noise, the untraceable thudding of a restless city into a carefully constructed urban soundscape that's dramatic in and of itself. The story proves too abstract and shapeless though to back up the many hints and teases, leaving one craving for more substance, more answers to questions the filmmaker doesn't even bother to ask.

"Concussion" rides on the strength of a rounded, nuanced lead performance by Robin Weigert, who plays the middle-aged lesbian mother-turned professional call girl with equal amounts of seduction, self-assurance and sympathy it's hard not to side with her. Compared with the similarly themed "Jeune et jolie", however, and it's clear the very American approach and aesthetic of debut writer/director Stacie Passon can't quite get the mystifying pull, the impenetrable mechanism of sexuality across like the French film does. Which is why when it fails to provide compelling motivations for such drastic changes in life, the movie doesn't entice with the blanks to fill but registers as underwritten, creatively limited. Tech details shine a pristine indie quality that helps create an intimate atmosphere but nothing truly stands out.

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